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Int. j. eng. sci., Vol(5), No (1), March, 2016. pp.


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International Journal of Engineering Sciences

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Numerical Optimization of Biogas Absorber Geometry for Highest

Methane Purity of the Egyptian Biogas
Sameh Tawfik Abd Elfattah*
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, Egypt.

Yehia. A. Eldrainy
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, Egypt.

Abdelhamid Attia
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, Egypt.
*Corresponding author:



Aspen Hysys
Biogas upgrading
Egyptian biogas
Methane purity

Biogas is one of the promising and renewable energy sources that can be easily obtained from all kinds of wastes
in Egypt as agriculture, livestock production and sewage waste. Purifying of the biogas is essential process before
pumping it into the natural gas network in order to be compatible with the specifications and standards of these
networks. In addition, purifying of biogas is required in research and calibration for sophisticated devices such as
X-Ray metal analyzer that requires pure methane for the purpose of alloys analyzing process. In this work, it is
aimed to clean the biogas from CO2 & H2S gases, which are the main contributor of the formation of acidic
compounds, global warming. Purifying process, moreover increases the calorific value of the biogas. Numerical
simulation was performed in order to design an optimized biogas treatment cycle using Aspen HYSYS software.
The absorber number of stages and dimensions necessary to purify biogas were optimized for the highest
methane purity. The absorption process was done inside Pressure Swing Absorber (PSA) where the biogas enters
the absorber at a temperature of 43 0C, a pressure of 25 bars, a flow rate of 13 m3/hour and Diethanolamine
(DEA) concentration of 0.3. It was found that 20 stages is an optimum number of stages to obtain the highest
purity of the Egyptian biogas with methane purity 99 %. The results also show that the optimum absorber
dimensions are 1.7 m tray diameter, 1.4 m3 tray volume and 0.5 m tray spacing.



In fact, it is possible to use of agricultural, industrial and sewage waste to generate a large amount of energy contribute effectively to overcome
the energy crises in Egypt by converting these types of waste to biogas [1]. Raw biogas contains some other undesirable components other than
methane where it must be removed before pumping biogas into the natural gas network to meet the standards of these networks [2-4]. In
addition, it is possible to obtain a high -purity methane from the biogas that used for other expensive purposes other than energy and power
generation such as research applications and calibration for sophisticated devices which [5, 6]. Biogas sweetening is the process in which CO2
and H2S are removed in order to protect the pipelines network and power engines from corrosion due to acidic effect, and to raise the calorific
value of the treated biogas [2, 7-10].
Most of biogas researches in Egypt focused only on utilization feasibility and production of the biogas from local resources [11-15], however
there are only few researchers concentrate on the biogas quality improvement methods to raise its purity of the Egyptian biogas. Therefore, this
paper aims to optimize to determine the optimum absorber dimensions and number of stages to achieve the highest purity of the Egyptian biogas
using Aspen HYSYS 8.6 simulation program.
The numerical simulation plays an important role in facilitating the proper design of sweetening cycle and sizing of its equipment especially the
absorber [16-18]. Aspen HYSYS 8.6 simulation software program is one of the most important and accurate programs that have been used in
the design of gas treatment process [19-22].
The detailed discussion of the ways of biogas upgrading to remove acidic contents (CO2 and H2S ) to match the universal standard of engines
and power stations and intensive study in using the simulation programs in the purification process of acid gases have been done [23-27].
However, these previous literatures did not provide a specific method to determine the optimum absorber dimensions to extract pure methane
from biogas.



Figure 1 describes the complete acid gases removal cycle (sweetening cycle) [28] in which the acid gas removal steps are performed. The feed
gas enters the absorber at temperature of 43 , pressure of 25 bar and flow rate of 5755 kg/hr from the bottom of the absorber column. The lean
amine (DEA) enters at the top of the column at conditions of 43 , 25 bar and 5530 kg/hr. The amine DEA absorbs CO2 and H2S from the feed
gas simultaneously. The sweet feed gas, which is free from CO2 & H2S, exits from the top of column, and the rich amine, exits from the bottom
of the absorber. Then the rich amine passes through expansion valve in order to expand to 66.32 and 2 bars and then it enter the separator.
Rich amine exits from the separator by the same foremention conditions to enter a Lean amine/ Rich amine (L/R) heat exchanger. The L/R heat
exchanger transfers heat from lean amine into rich amine. The hot rich amine which exits from the exchanger enters a regeneration column to
extract CO2 from the rich amine to lean it for recycling purpose. While the lean amine enters a make-up tank at 84 C and 1.05 bar which is just
above atmospheric pressure and exits from it at 84 C and 1.05 bars which equal the same inlet conditions of make-up tank. Then it is pumped to
84.5 0C and 25 bars and sequentially it is cooled at constant pressure process to 43C to be sent to a recycler. Lean amine exits from recycler at
43C and 25 bars. Finally, a sweet gas is obtained from the absorber after removing both CO2 & H2S. All the previous conditions of

Sameh Tawfik Abd Elfattah *, Yehia A Eldrainy, Abdelhamid Attia

International Journal of Engineering Sciences Vol(5), No (1), March, 2016.

temperatures, pressures and feed gas flow rates of the removal cycle are a result of running many simulation trials in order to get the highest
methane purity from Egyptian biogas.

Figure 1. Complete Acid Gases Removal Cycle (sweetening Cycle) [28]

The absorber column was selected from Aspen HYSYS model pallet which consists of multi stages having a sieve as construction as shown in
figure 2. The acid gas fluid package which contains DEA is also selected. The chemical composition of the Egyptian biogas obtained from the
waste was defined in Table 1.




Figure 2. (a) The absorber column (b) Absorber column internal lay out [29] (c) Absorber column tray (sieve) construction[30]

Table 1. Feed Egyptian biogas composition in mole fraction [31]

Mole fraction

Volume fraction

Methane ( CH4)




Carbon dioxide ( CO2 )



Hydrogen sulfide ( H2 S )



Water vapor ( H2 O)



Hydrogen ( H2 )



Nitrogen ( N2)



Oxygen ( O2)



Numerical Optimization of Biogas Absorber Geometry for Highest Methane Purity of the Egyptian Biogas
International Journal of Engineering Sciences Vol(5), No (1), March, 2016.

An initial value of 0.2 is selected for DEA strength. The initial absorber working conditions for both feed gas and DEA are shown in Table 2.
These initial conditions had been obtained after many simulation trials to get the highest methane purity.
Table 2. Initial absorber working conditions
Working condition


Lean DEA

Feed biogas

Vapor Fraction
Molar Flow
Mass Flow
Liquid Volume Flow




m3 /h

The simulation cycle was run to insure absorber conversion using Aspen HYSYS for the purpose of system optimization. The optimum DEA
strength was found 0.3 as explained in previous reference [28].


Results and discussion

The aim of the study is to investigate the effect of absorber geometry on the biogas treatment process using the simulation program Hysys.
Simulation result includes the effect of absorber trays diameter, spacing and numbers upon the amount of CO2, H2S and methane at 30%
concentration of DEA, which is the best result in the absorption processes of CO2 and H2S from the biogas as mention before.
3.1 Effect of Absorber Diameter
Figure 3 shows that there is a reverse relation between absorber diameter and CO2 % in the treated biogas. At the point, which the absorber
diameter equal to 1.7 m, the CO2 % reached to 0.0. Therefore, an absorber diameter of 1.7 m is selected as an optimum diameter.
There is also a reverse relation between absorber diameter and H2S contents in the sweet gas as shown in Figure 4. The H2S reaches its
minimum value of 0.0 at an absorber diameter of 0.2 m. This leads to select the same diameter of 1.7 m, which meets the minimum CO2 and
H2S content in sweet gas product.

Figure 3.Effect of absorber diameter on sweet gas CO2 contents

Figure 4. Effect of absorber diameter on sweet gas H2 S contents

Figure 5 shows the methane content in the biogas against the absorber diameter. At the point, which the absorber diameter equal to 1.7 m, the
methane content tends to be constant. As a result, 1.7 m absorber diameter is selected as the optimum value to achieve maximum methane purity
from Egyptian biogas.
3.2 Effect of Absorber Number of Stages
Figure 6 shows the effect of number of trays stages upon the content of CO2. The rate of decreasing of CO2 with the number of stages is high at
lower numbers of stages and deceases with the increase of stages number. There is no effect on the concentration of CO2 if the stages number
increases than 20 stages so that it is taken as an optimum number.
In Figure 7, the effect of stages number upon the amount of H2S is shown. It is clear from the figure that there no effect on the H2S content if
the stages numbers increase than 20 therefore it taken as optimum number for eliminating H2S to its minimum value.
Figure 8 emphasizes that the optimum number of absorber number of stages is 20, that is the number at which the maximum methane purity is

Sameh Tawfik Abd Elfattah *, Yehia A Eldrainy, Abdelhamid Attia

International Journal of Engineering Sciences Vol(5), No (1), March, 2016.

Figure 5. Effect of absorber diameter on sweet gas methane contents

Figure 6. Effect of absorber number of stages on rich amine CO2 contents

Figure 7. Effect of absorber number of stages on rich amine H2S contents

Figure 8. Effect of absorber number of stages on rich amine methane contents

3.3 Effect of Absorber Tray Spacing

Simulation results shows that the tray spacing has no effect on the percentage of the CO2 or methane purity. That is due to the pressure inside
the absorber helps to push the gases inside column trays holes easily during the absorption process. Therefor the main factors that should be
taken into consideration are the geometrical dimensions of the trays, the even distribution of the trays in the absorber and the right numbers of
trays. In addition easy replacement of the blocked trays and easy service of them will affect the treatment process. Table 3 shows the final
volume fractions of the sweet gas after treatment process.
Table 3. Composition of Upgraded Biogas

Mole fraction

Volume fraction

Methane ( CH4)
Carbon dioxide ( CO2)
Hydrogen sulfide ( H2S )
Water vapor ( H2O)
Hydrogen ( H2)
Nitrogen ( N2)
Oxygen ( O2)



Numerical Optimization of Biogas Absorber Geometry for Highest Methane Purity of the Egyptian Biogas
International Journal of Engineering Sciences Vol(5), No (1), March, 2016.



Aspen HYSYS simulation program was used to determine the optimum absorber geometry in order to achieve the highest methane purity from
Biogas. Absorber with different diameters, number of stages and spacing was used to remove the CO2 and H2S simultaneously from an amount
of feed biogas with total volume flow rate about 13 m3/h. The simulation results showed that the optimum PSA column diameter m is 1.7 m, the
optimum tray spacing is 0.5 m and the optimum PSA number of stages is 20 stages


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